One Track Mind: Andy Bey, “Lover Come Back to Me” (2014)

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A stand-out moment from the just-released Pages from an Imaginary Life on HighNote, “Lover Come Back to Me” finds Andy Bey alone at the piano — keeping his vocal instrument, a bottomless wonder, front and center.

And, since his unexpected resurgence with 1996’s superlative Ballads, Blues and Bey, that has always been his best platform. Not that the underrated Bey can’t shine in a larger-group setting, as heard during guest turns on Stanley Clarke’s 1970s gem Children of Forever, the 1980s Pharoah Sanders album Heart is a Melody and, in the next decade, on the David Murray Big Band’s great self-titled album.

But take most everything else away, and Bey’s gift for interpretative singing isn’t denuded. Instead, it’s revealed in all of its many shadings once more. He’s working more in the middle of his four-octave baritone range here, a place more vulnerable — and perfectly suited for this song’s stark cry for a lost lover.

When, late in the proceedings, Bey descends into a free-form scat, it sounds not like a virtuosic flourish but like someone struggling with an overwhelming emotion. It’s as visceral as anything Bey has ever done, and that’s saying something.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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